Ben Grenrock wanted Red Panda to perform at the Super Bowl.
This epoch is all weird and getting weirder; opportunities for simple, tangible, human experiences are tumbling into the uncanny valley faster than any of us can grab at them. But navigating the anti-depressant laced waters of our times with any semblance of our sanity intact requires a laser-like focus on those small, quotidian moments of humanity.
Relish the conversation in halting Spanish with your local taco vendor. Cherish the opportunity to take out your trash now, before the app that calls in a Bezos-drone to incinerate your rubbish on the spot is up for download and your two hands become irrelevant.
And so, we at P.O.W. are delighted to premiere, “Pantheon,” the first release from Best Picture—a duo comprised of Los Angeles-based producers John War and Cubbi—featuring underground hip-hop wyvern Chester Watson. On “Pantheon,” appreciation for the tactile and humanizing minutia in an average day is the central thread in the rich web of words and sounds woven from the artists’ collective efforts.
Best Picture deliver a polished and intricately orchestrated beat for their debut. From the first halting drum hits, the first intriguing flute notes, their production draws the listener ever deeper into a psychedelic world where the almost-familiar becomes fresh. The beat builds and builds as elements and effects are layered onto the bedrock of its central loop, its mutations themselves unfurling in a subtle crescendo. It’s a composition that sounds at once organic and dystopian, like some sort of Gaudí-designed high-rise built in a terraformed crater.
It’s the perfect, eerie, cyberpunk cityscape for Watson to bless with his inexorable flow. The rapper walks us through a typical day in this nebulous world of echo and bass; it begins when he wakes up and gets dressed, and ends when he mergers with an interstellar pantheon of celestial rappers—which, as any of his long time listeners will tell you, has been Watson’s daily routine for a few years now.
Just as Best Picture’s beat continues to build in complexity, as Chester leads us on a journey from pizza parlor to exoplanet, the complexity and weight of his rhymes increase. But constant within his performance on “Pantheon” is a focus on small moments of quotidian beauty. Getting a free beverage at the pizza spot, brainstorming his next song idea while he orders his food, gazing out at the city from eight stories up through a haze of burnt herbs—these are the simple moments that ground him.
The thematic unity between producer and rapper displayed on “Pantheon” bodes well for Best Picture’s next few releases. They’re slated to drop a series of collaborations in the coming months, and if those forthcoming songs are anything like this first effort, they aren’t to be slept on. “Pantheon” may not be able to save us from our techno-age, or from ourselves, but it is a reminder of the visceral sensations that just might.